It was quite the juxtaposition at the opening of the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. In a session entitled “Averting a Climate Apocalypse”, activist Greta Thunberg once again chastised world leaders for inaction. That followed a speech by one of those very leaders: Donald Trump urged everyone to be more hopeful and ignore “predictions of the apocalypse” and “prophets of doom”.
It would be easy for business leaders to heed Trump: he and other heads of state hold the regulatory levers, after all, and Thunberg does not. But aside from the fact that other countries (and even some US states) are putting far more pressure on firms to act on climate change than Trump is, there’s another simple reason for companies to lead the charge: green solutions are becoming both a profitable and essential practice.
In other words, it’s an opportunity and not a burden. “If you think in terms of businesses solving the problems of people and planet, then that is potentially one of the most exciting, important and profitable activities that a company can engage in,” says Colin Mayer of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, who led his own panel discussion on corporate responsibility earlier in the day. Now there’s a hopeful message that business leaders can latch on to.